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Although it won't look quite like it usually does, Moniteau County's Relay for Life still plans to have an enthusiastic presence for Relay Week, starting in just a few days.

This year's "Paint the Town Purple"-themed Relay for Life is set to begin Sunday and run through June 12. In a show of support for the county's cancer survivors, Relay for Life is encouraging businesses and residences in Moniteau County to decorate in purple throughout the week.

The top businesses in California, Tipton and Jamestown will be selected by a committee of volunteers and recognized on Relay for Life of Moniteau County's Facebook page. Members of the community can also post pictures of their decorated residences on the page, and a People's Choice award will be given to the photo with the most likes.

A survivor parade is also set for the last day of Relay Week, June 12, which was the original relay date. The parade will begin at the Moniteau County Fairgrounds, make its way up to Jamestown and travel back through California to end in Tipton.

Seth Freeman, Moniteau County's American Cancer Society staff partner, said the coronavirus pandemic forced national guidelines postponing any in-person events for through ACS through the end of June. Freeman said organizers and volunteers worked to identify things they could still do, even in a socially distant way. Paint the Town Purple has been an ongoing tradition for a number of years, Freeman said, and has become one of the hallmarks of the event, so it was a natural fit in that brainstorming.

Traditionally, it's been just businesses that have decorated, but Freeman said they're expanding to include private residences to join and show their support.

"Since we aren't able to really gather at our normal event, we wanted to include everyone. That's why we've expanded it to anyone in Moniteau County who wants to decorate," Freeman said. "We're encouraging them to do so, to show their support during that week for all of our survivors and those who are going through it. At this time, more than ever, they need the support."

While there won't be the traditional fundraiser this year since there won't be an in-person Relay, Freeman said Relay for Life is still doing Luminaria sales in recognition of survivors that have lost their battles with cancer. He said there are plans to have a ceremony in some capacity later in the fall, probably in a drive-thru format so it can be socially distanced. Those who wish to dedicate a Luminaria can contact members of their local Relay team or donate online at https://secure.acsevents.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=relay_luminaria.

Freeman said there are statewide plans in the works for events later in the year, since other Relay for Life events across the state have been similarly affected by the pandemic. He said the hope is that would allow for some closure to the season and be an opportunity to celebrate volunteers' and survivors' accomplishments for the year.

Freeman said the response from community members has been enthusiastic and understanding of the main concern being the safety of everyone involved.

"That's our number one priority," Freeman said. "We are an organization dedicated to improving people's health. We don't want to do anything that could jeopardize that. The key thing that's guided us through all of this is the safety of everybody, because we realize that our core constituents are survivors. They are some of the most at-risk people right now."

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